Friday, November 21, 2014

feeling at home

I have been here for three months, and this last week I got to do a few things that made me feel at home. 
1.   Sunday I was in the capital and attended a completely English speaking church service.  I usually go to a service only in Spanish, so this was a great treat.
2.   On Tuesday I got to go to an American school in the capital.  I spent the morning visiting the elementary classrooms.  A part that I really enjoyed was just relaxing in the school library that afternoon reading magazines in English.
3.    I spent a few days at the apartment of an American friend.  It felt homey and comfortable.  It was a blessing to be able to relax there.
4.   And finally, returning to Xela felt like home, too.  It is funny how just three months in a place makes it feel like the place where I belong.  I was glad to see familiar faces and know where things are. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

what I have learned

I finished over 250 hours of Spanish classes last week.  Besides learning more Spanish (and I feel like I have learned a lot), I have learned some things that should help me be a better teacher.
1.  If my student doesn't understand, it doesn't mean that they are not trying.  Some days at the end of class I was more than ready for a break.  I wanted to learn the concept, but sometimes I just needed more time to understand.
2.  A positive teacher-student relationship is very helpful.  I really liked my teacher, so I was more motivated to work hard and try to understand.
3.   Context and prior knowledge are really important.  When a sentence or word is not in a broader context, I sometimes have no idea what it means.
4.    Practice, practice, and more practice is so necessary.  I am more fluent than I was eleven weeks ago, but I need lots more practice to get better and build my confidence.
5.   The manner in which correction is done makes a big difference.  It is necessary to correct, but one teacher I had made me want to quit talking because I was afraid that I was going to make a mistake.
6.   Tests can shake a student's confidence.  I did not have any tests until my last day, but I was nervous about taking that test.  I was afraid I would forget everything and do poorly, disappointing both my teacher and myself.  Thankfully, I did well.
7.   Build on a student's interests when possible.  I like to write, so when I got to write stories and in my journal, it didn't seem like a chore.  My speaking practice centered around topics I was interested in.  One day my teacher brought in an article about a well known author because she knew I liked to read.  All these things helped me stay engaged in the learning process.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Here are a few things I saw today...   Roosters looking for food.

Lines of cars...

and more lines of cars, vans and buses.  I was in Cobán for a few days, and today I headed back to the capital.  The trip to Cobán  took under three hours on Sunday.  Today, because some protesters were blocking the highway, we sat in one place for more than seven hours.  Plenty of time to write a letter to my dad, doze, review my Spanish notes, write some e-mails, practice being patient, and wonder what time I would actually end up back in the city.  Good thing that I didn't have an appointment or a tight schedule.  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I went to the cemetery here this weekend.  It is the time to go to see it and observe part of a Guatemalan tradition.  The people celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  As you can see, the tombs are above ground.  If a family is wealthy, they have a place where all the members of a family are buried.
Some people do not have a family plot.  Instead they rent a space in the outer wall for a family member.

There is also the part for the poor people.  It is in farther from the entrance, and has a different look.  Regardless, the people clean and paint the tombs of family members.  They also bring fresh flowers or wreaths to decorate the tombs.  Families may choose to eat there, and others fly kites.  People are in the cemetery selling snacks.  Outside the cemetery it is like a fair, with food, flowers, and other miscellaneous items.  All around the city, people make a special food called fiambre.  It is a cold dish made of different vegetables and cold cuts.  It is pretty good and I am not quite sure why it is only eaten once a year.  The cemetery reminded me a bit of those in New Orleans, where the tombs are also above ground. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chajil Siwan

Sunday I went to Totonicopán, another department of Guatemala and visited Chajil Siwan.  I was glad to see green spaces, lots of trees, and be away from the city.  A guide accompanied my group along the trail.  He seemed rather knowledgable, but spoke only Spanish, so I didn't get everything. 
It was quite a change from Xela, but well worth getting up before six o'clock in the morning and riding in a microbus with 15 other people and one dog.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Swiss Family Robinson

I have plenty of time to read here, which is one of the reasons that I picked up The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Swys  at the used book store (this edition is almost 500 pages).  A teacher who used to work at the same school as me read an abridged version to his class each year, then showed the Disney version of the movie.  The story is about a family from Switzerland who is shipwrecked and needs to survive on an uninhabited island.  The family includes both a mother, a father and their four sons.
     This book made me think about how dependent I am on others for both my needs and wants.  I can cook, clean, and sew.  But I would not be able to build a decent shelter, cook over a fire, or know how to make something from nature into clothing.  For all our advantages there are to our modern civilization, it seems like  we are less knowledgable about skills that make it possible to take care of ourselves.
     If I taught older elementary or middle school students, I would consider reading it aloud to my class.